The next major U.S. election is a biggie, and you can’t blame candidates from bolting the gate quickly and using the most cutting-edge ways to contact would-be supporters. But enthusiasm aside, there’s no excuse for poor use of communications technology in political campaigns.
Driving home this point is my personal experience and some news reports about candidates reaching out to constituents via email and SMS campaigns. Some politicians seem to understand how proper tech-driven campaigns can make them ultra-relevant to voters. Others, alas, do not.
An example of the latter: A few days ago someone rang my cell phone, wrongly calling me by my email-name and campaigning for the mayor of the city where I used to live. The caller didn’t care when I said I no longer lived there and no longer could vote for this mayor. My contact information had obviously been purchased rather than given by me voluntarily, leading to inaccuracies in the mayor’s database. Moreover, I hated being bothered on my mobile with information that was not relevant to me.
Meanwhile lots of other political candidates realize that there are more effective ways of gathering contacts for a campaign and promoting themselves to receptive voters. They use the same kind of messaging campaigns that mobileStorm helps its clients conduct.
The Washington Post recently ran a feature on Democratic presidential hopefuls using mobile messaging campaigns. “Your cellphone is probably the one piece of technology that is with you all the time,” said Barack Obama’s new-media director, Joe Rospars. “The reality is, I don’t think there’s a campaign or a political organization right now that has figured out how to smartly use this technology. There’s going to be a lot of experimentation.”
Mr. Obama and others are using SMS to organize events and get supporters to donate money, the Post said. John Edwards advertised a common short code (CSC) to ask folks to either join his Young America program or sign his petition demanding an end to the Iraq war; depending on the individual’s interest, a person could text “Summer” or “Iraq” to 30644. Imagine how many potential supporters–and their contact information–Mr. Edwards has gathered for his campaign database.
Republicans, too, are using targeted messaging. According to the email tracking firm Email Data Source, ClickZ recently noted, even the least likely of presidential hopefuls, such as Newt Gingrich, use email campaigns to send updates, event announcements, and links to blogs and videos. The key point: “They’re sending out email to supporters and campaign watchers.” That means message recipients subscribed to these emails, likely through ads on the candidates’ web sites or in other traditional media.
While it’s true that poliitical campaigns are not subjected to the same opt-in requirements/best practices of commercial email, it’s still wise to follow such a strategy in order to get optimal results. After all, relevancy is key to any messaging campaign–if the recipient doesn’t want or like the content, she or he is going get angry. And voters are angry enough these days.
-Eydie Cubarrubia, Marketing Communications Manager